mercredi 23 mars 2011

Why the Umbono program can kill my dream of a startup

If you follow me on Twitter, you will know that yesterday, March 22, 2011, I had a very passionate debate with members of African technology community on positive or negative consequences generated by the project of Google’s business incubator named "UMBONO" on African startups.
It began when I read this blog article 2.0 Africa: Umbono, the incubator of Google.
What prompted me to launch this tweet: I am very scared Startups Cameroonian risk getting crushed by the project Umbono Why see here? we must act.
Unfortunately many have not been able to discern the impact the Umbono program on their current and future projects. This is why i write this post to better illustrate it.
Reminder: an incubator is a support structure that provides financial, intellectual, material etc. to a project that is mostly initiated by a young entrepreneur. Read this article from wikipedia.

The consequences of Umbono program on African startups
The Umbono program will undoubtedly have positive or negative consequences on African startups.
The positive consequences of the Umbono program
The startup African Umbono will receive the following benefits:
  1. Money. It will be between 25000 and 50000 dollars to start with a high probability of receiving more funding for development of its products and services worldwide if consumers appreciate the offer.
  2. The expertise and professional networks from Google, investors and other project Umbono members. What constitutes a great advantage for me.
  3. The reputation and brand image of Google that will be of a great help in marketing its products and services to market. Especially in the B2B market
  4. A giant of the internet will do everything to produce giants. Needless to remind you that Google is No. 1 in the world of the Internet and has a reputation to defend. Therefore Google and its partners will do everything to make a project supported an African leader at least, see the world if possible.
Firstly, I sincerely congratulate the Young Entrepreneurs that are retained by the project Umbono. This will benefit from realizing a dream of mine who is finally seeing the birth of true high-tech startups in Africa. Why I started with the participation of the technology community African writing a guide for startups and innovation in Africa will aim to foster the emergence of startups in Africa and create an ecosystem around them. You can participate in the drafting of the guide here
Sadly we all know that "the happiness of some can cause misery for others" Tweet this message.
The negative consequences of the Umbono program
To better illustrate these consequences. Consider EASY SCHOOL project initiated by La Pointe Technologie that will not benefit from the support of Umbono and draft someone named BIG SCHOOL example who benefits and who both provide the same services.
ReminderEASY SCHOOL is an educational solution that aims to address difficulties faced by the major education stakeholders (students, teachers, parents and schools). Following EASY SCHOOL is composed of three services.
  • Manager is a system of management and administration of schools hosted in cloud
  • Library is a service that allows teachers to sell their courses online and students to download free trials and exercises.
  • Performance is a tool for monitoring school performance as a student throughout his school career.
Now here is why the project Umbono can kill my dream of a startup.
  1. Most investors do not invest in two similar projects. They focus on one and do everything to make him a world leader in most cases, particularly U.S. investors.
  2. While I am currently busy looking for investors for EASY SCHOOL, solve business problems, managerial, etc.. BIG SCHOOL team will not have to worry about that. Google and its partners will do that and she can focus all his energies to build and improve its services.
  3. To easily sell B2B, you must have a reputation and brand image. BIG SCHOOL has this through Google.
  4. Many investors are afraid to invest in a technology project which can be direct or indirect competition with Google. To show you how Google's scary. Take the example of Kelkoo in 2003 before being acquired by Yahoo for 475 million euros. Put off the moments of anguish and fears experienced by their leaders, they had to improve their services to survive. You can read it on page 166 of the book " ils ont réussi leur startup !  " A free download here.
  5. The project is limited to Umbono program leaders residing in South Africa
Finally, the purpose of this post is not to discourage all project developers who have no support from Umbono. But to draw their attention to the fact that Google and its partners are spirited to want to create giant African startup .The Umbono program is a good thing for Africa. And if your startup was competing directly or indirectly with a startup that has the support of Umbono, remember the KELKOO case.
Thank you for listening and please do not hesitate to give your opinion.

La version française originale de ce poste 

4 commentaires:

david bassock a dit…

You cannot say that the Umbono project is a bad thing just because it creates unfair support for the startups. Thats like telling Silicon Valley back in the day that the universities must stop working with private companies because it gives them an unfair access to new talent. The idea of a startup is capitalistic by nature, it is survival of the fittest - and that is what begets good startups.

The Umbono project in South Africa is a test bed for running similar projects throughout Africa. You should rather turn your cynicism into into an energy to create a competing environment. Give them a reason to start the next project where you are.

The Umbono project is actually a collaboration between a number of facets of the local Startup scene in SA. They brought together an Angel group, entrepreneur support program and local mentors, local shared office space and an online entrepreneur community. The mentorship offered by Google and the funds they input are only a small part of the program.

Your time would be better spent supporting projects like this in Africa and looking to create a favourable landscape in your own town.

david bassock a dit…

Thank you for taking the initiative to respond to this post

First, I never said that the program umbono was a bad thing, personally it will benefit from realizing a dream of mine who is seeing the birth of true high-tech startups in Africa.

Second, regarding my time I have undertaken with the participation of African technology community
writing a guide to startups and innovation in Africa will aim to promote the emergence of startups in Africa and create an ecosystem around them. You can participate in the drafting of the guide here

And finally, this post was to tell the technological communities of other countries in Africa that good initiatives in the creation of startups are taken in South Africa and they must take the same, if not their startups will struggle to reach the summits.

david bassock a dit…


I am the founder of Gatfol - a radical new search technology. We applied for Umbono and was rejected. I used our Gatfol semantic intelligence and investigated the first 4 Umbono winners. I found extremely interesting and disturbing results. All the initial winners are white. The one coloured person (Evan Robinson of TaxTim) is mainly just window dressing with the actual tax accountant being Marc Sevitz (white) that does work for a Cyprus based international firm called TotalServe Management Ltd. One of the winners"Localsort" has a photo of its team with all 9 white faces. This is all fine but Google and the sponsors created the impression that "Umbono" with a Zulu name is very African. How many thousands of real African entrepreneurs got rejected ? Not only that...ALL the winners went to school and studied in Cape Town. Again - it is mainly a Capte Town initiative but then why promote it as broad and including everybody. We will take this analysis further on the blog

Evan a dit…

Hi David.
I'm in fact not coloured, plus I built the TaxTim system from scratch.
Good luck with your search engine.

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